Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Michael Jackson is Still Dead

And American forces are still in Iraq. Surprised? The headlines, buried under the latest updates about the loss of the King of Pop, say that we have pulled out of Iraq. Well, not really. If that were the case I’d be sitting in my back yard drinking a cold beer instead of writing from eight thousand miles away.

As is often with the press, Western, Arabic, independent, or those owned by Rupert Murdock, the facts are often ignored in the message. It is true that on 30 June 2009, the coalition forces of the United States and, um, Texas, are leaving the cities. However, there are only twenty five major cities of Iraq across eighteen provinces (similar to states) that qualify for this distinction. For people like me, sitting on an old Iraqi radar station next to a corn field, there is no change to my “war” or my surroundings.

However, the celebrations are unfolding across the country. The Iraqis are parading in places like Karbala and Najaf where there haven’t been forces in over a year. In other words they are celebrating something they already enjoy. Or do they?

The other overlooked fact is that the resolution for us to move out of the cities is not binding. Not yet. The referendum that was supposed to go before the people this summer was postponed. In other words, we are honoring the intent of the Security Agreement even though it is not official yet.

This is good news for two reasons. First, it shows our intent and willingness to let the Iraqis control their own destiny. Second, it allows us to go in and support the Iraqis if they prove they can't.

It’s called “expectation management” and it means to prepare yourself and others for what the reality of the situation is going to be. For example; going to Disney World during Christmas week requires some expectation management – trust me on this one, I know from experience. We expect fairy tales come true, and Mickey Mouse, and FUN. The reality is that ten thousand other people are in line for the same thing. In Iraq some of the press is portraying this event as if we are never, ever going to be seen in a city again. Unfortunately for them, if you read the actual agreement, that’s not altogether true.

That means come the first few days of July everyone will be conducing “expectation mitigation” when the reality meets the expectation. The government of Iraq is already in front of the cameras explaining what will and won’t happen. Of course there are opportunists who will use this ambiguous situation to their own gain by blaming their own government for being weak when the first MRAP rolls through Mosul, or Basra.

In a few days we’ll celebrate our own independence. Independence earned many years ago with a clear victory in a place called Yorktown. Our enemy, in defeat, left our shores (only to become our greatest ally generations later). If only all of that were that easy here.

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